Plus 15 More New Releases to Watch This Week on Blu-ray/DVD!
Welcome to this week in home video! Click the title to buy a Blu-ray/DVD from Amazon and help support FSR in the process!
Pick of the Week
Pulse [Arrow Video]
What is it? A rash of suicides begins in Tokyo alongside some mysterious online activity.
Why see it? Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s 2001 film remains one of the creepiest of the past sixteen years, and a large part of that is due to it being a masterclass in the use of shadow and score. Traditional music exists alongside chilling vocals as events on screen build from unsettling moments into utterly terrifying set-pieces. Kurosawa has no need of cheap jump scares as his scares make their presence known slowly and only grow increasingly effective before our eyes. The story finds the nightmare in technology — and our increased dependence upon it — and then spills it onto the screen in truly spooky ways from the personal to the apocalyptic. Technology that was meant to draw us closer together is instead pushing us apart, and that gap is being filled by unwelcome guests taking advantage of the abundant sadness and isolation of modern life.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, video appreciation, featurettes, reversible sleeve, booklet]
What is it? A young girl in America’s heartland finds a man locked in a silo.
Why see it? Part coming of age tale and part recognition of the American fiction, writer/director Anne Hamilton’s dreamlike feature offers up a story of good and evil in a kingdom not so far away. Real-world terrors of violence and bankruptcy haunt the film, but it hangs on the force at its center in the form of young Gitty. She’s brought to beautiful life by Peyton Kennedy with a performance that finds light and heart amid the darkness of family betrayals and horrible truths. It’s ultimately a tale of the clash between imagination and reality, and it leaves you excited for whatever Hamilton does next.
[DVD extras: Deleted scenes, still gallery]
The Fifth Element – 4K Ultra HD
What is it? A new being that holds the fate of the world in her fragile features lands in a cab driven by Bruce Willis.
Why see it? Luc Besson’s nutty action/sci-fi yarn still rubs the wrong way whenever Chris Tucker is onscreen, but on the whole the film remains a visual spectacle that just thrives on energy and goofy smiles. The visual effects remain impressive, even more so in 4K, as they pop off the screen with vibrant color and texture. Sure the ending’s lame as Willis beds a girl who’s essentially a child, but the action on the way there is a boisterous good time.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New interview, featurettes]
Leon / The Professional – 4K Ultra HD
What is it? A young girl hires a hitman to help her avenge her family’s murder.
Why see it? This remains Luc Besson’s best film by a mile as every piece comes together with perfection. It’s a thrilling action picture with well-drawn characters on both sides of the moral divide and a brilliant cast to bring them to life. Young Natalie Portman slays, Jean Reno captures the essence of an innocent assassin, and Gary Oldman is magical as the corrupt cop who brought them together. It’s far from a showy action movie, but the new 4K transfer captures the chaos and violence with even more beauty than we’re used to.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Two versions of the movie, featurettes]
The Lost City of Z
What is it? A British explorer dedicates his life to finding an ancient city he believes once existed in the jungles of South America.
Why see it? James Gray delivers an adventure film we don’t typically see the likes of these days as it moves from the high halls of education in London to the deadly, sweaty jungles of the Amazon. The latter elements work best as the film immerses viewers into the experience with the visuals and sounds of the jungle becoming an experience, and while a bit too much time is spent back squabbling in civilization there’s still more than enough exploration to pull us close to screen and make us yearn for adventures of our own. And who knew Charlie Hunnam could act?
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurettes]
Species [Scream Factory]
What is it? A sexy alien goes on a sex and murder spree in an effort to breed.
Why see it? Roger Donaldson’s mid 90s sci-fi/horror hybrid sounds like a film destined for the cheap shelves, but his talents combined with a killer cast (Natasha Henstridge, Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Alfred Molina, Forest Whitaker) and some spectacular effects work instead deliver a still-fun thrill ride. It’s a fun, sexy ride, and while the sequels are a mixed bag, the original still holds up beautifully. Scream Factory’s new Collector’s Edition offers a fantastic picture and new interviews alongside previously available extras making it the definitive version of this A-grade B-movie.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: 4K remaster, commentaries, interviews, featurettes, alternate ending]
Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
What is it? It’s exactly what the title describes.
Why see it? As far as adaptations of Roald Dahl’s classic book go this is easily the second best. (Sorry Tim Burton and your crappy, heartless remake.) It riffs more directly on the original film with entire dialogue exchanges and songs lifted straight from it, but it shifts some of it around to different players. Even Slugworth gets a song this time around. Tom and Jerry do exactly as you’d expect and add their own violent antics to the tale. Basically the Wonka story unfolds as we know and love, and our two animal buddies chase along weaving in and out of the narrative. It’s sweet and funny, and delivers at least one big laugh with a certain cartoon character cameo.
[DVD extras: Bonus cartoons]
The Fate of the Furious
What is it? Everyone’s favorite multi-racial family of thieves gets a new stepmom.
Why see it? Fast Five remains the pinnacle of this franchise, and the drop in fun from its peak continues here. It’s not for lack of trying, and the inclusion of Charlize Theron as the big baddie goes a long way toward keeping the film just enjoyable enough, but the action and script have come to pass the sweet spot of awesome fun. It moves far too deep into cartoon land action-wise leaving us with scenes that are more CG than stunt-work, and the story asks viewers to forgive too much (namely Han’s murder) in the name of “fun” team ups with past enemies. Meh. Also, Universal can go screw itself for including an extended version of the film as a digital extra only. Practical media for life fam.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, commentary]
The Hunting Party [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A rapey bandit abducts the wife of a rapey land baron, and everyone pays the price.
Why see it? The film is a must-watch for the cast alone including Oliver Reed and Gene Hackman as the two men clashing over the woman (Candice Bergen), but sweet jesus is this a dark western with literally no one worth rooting for. Both men force themselves on women, and both kill numerous other men. There’s no hero here, and while our sympathy rests with the wife between them she quickly sides with the rapist leaving viewers with no horse to support in this race. Still, it’s a violently entertaining action/drama with attractive scenery and a game cast up for the pure evil of the American west.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interview]
What is it? A heist goes bad when the players involved continue acting like the criminals they are.
Why see it? There’s not a lot to distinguish this film from the legion of direct to DVD action pics that hit shelves each year, and that generic nature starts with the cast. A couple minor familiar faces aside, there’s no one here to latch onto, and lead Craig Fairbrass isn’t quite able to muster the charisma needed. His character gets some somewhat interesting turns along the way, but little is done with them.
[DVD extras: None]
Shalako [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A Scottish cowboy protects a French countess from American Indians.
Why see it? The best westerns often subvert the simplistic formula of cowboys versus Indians, but others, like this entry, simply embrace the idea. Sean Connery plays the hero here as he stumbles across some wealthy tourists being harassed by the locals, and he proceeds to rack up quite a kill count in their defense. The action that follows is the expected, although the presence of Woody Strode as a Native American feels a bit off. Viewers looking for straightforward gun fights and vast American vistas will enjoy.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]
Smurfs: The Lost Village
What is it? The Smurfs head into the Forbidden Forest in search of a lost city of Z.
Why see it? This one’s unsurprisingly a kids-only affair as the rest of us will have a hard time finding laughs amid the antics. It’s fully animated meaning no Neil Patrick Harris returning this time, and instead it’s just the little ones who’ll enjoy the traditional cartoon humor as the various smurfs — including Demi Lovato as the voice of Smurfette — banter and adventure their way to a smurfin’ good time. Again, to clarify, a good time for kids. The writing doesn’t offer up laughs for parents and other adults who’ve stumbled into a viewing.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, music video]
Spark: A Space Tail
What is it? A general thirsting for power moves to devastate, destroy, and dominate the universe, but he didn’t count on a wise-ass monkey named Spark.
Why see it? Like the new Smurfs movie above, this animated entry is an also-ran in that it exists strictly as second rate entertainment for the kiddies. The humor doesn’t land for smarter minds as the gags and jokes are aimed mostly at young, but the story finds some competent emotional beats as the danger increases for our anthropomorphic heroes. We don’t care necessarily, but it adds an extra level to the otherwise simplistic antics.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
Star Crystal [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A rock found on Mars harbors a hungry alien inside, and soon the creature finds sustenance among the crew of an intergalactic space station.
Why see it? There were many ripoffs after the success of Ridley Scott’s Alien, and this is definitely one of them. Budget and talent limitations keep it from tiffing on too many of its iconic scenes, and instead the filmmakers focused on air shafts and watching tracker dots on a screen as the creature approaches an unsuspecting crew member. There’s not much else to this effort, at least not until the third act when things take a turn as the alien speaks to the survivors leading to a team-up. It’s odd, and while it’s a slog getting to it the end at least offers something new.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Star Slammer [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A warrior woman is sentenced to space jail, but she doesn’t plan on staying there for long.
Why see it? Director Fred Olen Ray’s sweet spot is poorly choreographed action, generic production design, and scantily-clad women, and this mid 80s sci-fi romp fits that bill. There’s some minor alien action, but for the most part it’s human heroes, villains, and bystanders clashing as the girls bond and make their bid for freedom. There’s nothing here to make it essential, and you should already know if it’s your cup of low budget genre tea. It’s surprisingly devoid of a shower scene for a film about a women’s prison though.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary with director Fred Olen Ray]
What is it? As London suffers the German Blitz a government department works to support morale onscreen.
Why see it? Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk hits screens soon and tells the story of that epic beach rescue, and this serves as a sweet and simple follow up to its bombastic glory. The story the crew settles on involves two sisters who boated out to rescue stranded servicemen, but the story the film’s telling is one closer to home. Gemma Arterton is magnificent as a writer who overcomes sexist views to work her way into the production and then finds her own life’s ups and downs becoming every bit as dramatic.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, commentary]
Also out this week:
Don’t Look In the Basement Double Feature, L’Argent [Criterion], Roberto Rossellini’s War Trilogy [Criterion], Terror In a Texas Town [Arrow Academy], Underground – Season Two